Wednesday, September 7, 2016

'Annie' at MBS in Review

Annie by Base Entertainment
Running till 11 September 2016 at MBS's Mastercard Theatres
Review by Jeremy Lee

One may think the latest production of Charles Strouse’s iconic musical Annie, brought to our Zika-infected island again by the gracious-as-always folks at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands, needs no introduction.

However, one may not have seen the original Broadway production, of which the current show bills itself as.

Exactly how original is original? Well for those who are only familiar with the 1982 movie version starring Albert Finney and Carol Burnett, or God forbid, the 2014 movie starring Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne and Cameron Diaz (if you saw that travesty, we won't hold it against you but please wash your ears out with soap. Now.), this show may come as a shock as it remains faithful to the stage version that opened in Broadway way back in 1977..

That means you will hear songs you may not be familiar with, like "We'd Like To Thank You Herbert Hoover" and "A New Deal For Christmas", as they were cut from the show for the movie.

After getting over the shock of hearing these songs, you kinda realise why they were cut - they are among the weaker tunes, and some of them, especially "We'd Like To Thank You" need some understanding of the historical context of the play.

But admittedly, though, most of the people who would watch the show are families who want to see cute children singing "Tomorrow" and musical theatre die-hards like myself who already know everything. Of the non-die-hards, who has the time to find out who Herbert Hoover is?

(Herbert Hoover is a former president of the United States (1929-1933) whose reign coincided with the Great Depression (1929-1939) and who was widely blamed for it. This show is set in 1933 New York, and "We'd Like To Thank You" is a sarcastic ditty sang by the residents of a shantytown named after him called “Hooverville”. You're welcome.)

Back to the cute children. One would be delighted to know that they are very adorable indeed. I'm not partial towards children and usually don't fancy watching children on stage or screen (or anywhere else), but I do make an exception when the children in question are this good in singing and dancing.

11-year-old heroine Annie (Heidi Gray) is in possession of a very clear, plaintive voice, and her innocent-yet-strong vocals are ideal for show-stoppers "Tomorrow" and "Maybe". I've heard these songs a thousand times and I don't think I've heard them sung better.

Her compatriots from the orphanage win audience's hearts with their equally plucky singing and game antics. Sure, I spotted a few dancing flubs but they made up for it by sheer gung-ho and the fact that, well, they are children.

Of the adult actors, a stand out is Miss Hannigan (Lynn Andrews), the designated comic villain of the show, but so much more than that. She brings unexpected heart, impeccable comic timing and a brassy voice to what is often a thankless role.

So watch Annie to see an old-school musical with good production values and great performances that will your tug at your heart strings.

Annie runs till 11 September 2016. Check out the Events Page for details.

Related Feature:

Our exclusive interview with the Annie cast and production sneak peak.

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